Learning a language with Babbel

Being able to speak French in my job is a very strong asset.  Plus, my son is in an immersion school, so helping him with his homework is getting tougher as he gets to higher grades.

I took French way back in high school, taking the minimal amount and only went as far as Grade 10.  I've had more than a few people say to me that I have a boites des cereales Francais.  Yup.

To help, I've been taking some courses at my local Centre Francophone but man it's hard.  And it's only once a week.  I need something more.

I've been using Duolingo for some time now; however, sometimes the wording is a little weird.  I'm open to trying out a new option.

Welcome to Babbel.

I was excited by the name because I'm a fan of Douglas Adams and in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series there was a Babelfish, which could help instantly translate foreign languages for the person willing to put it in their ear.

So, let's give it a shot.  (just to give you an idea, the service starts at $12.95USD/mo, reducing in cost to as low as $6.95USD/mo if you buy the full year)

I chose French (obviously), and the weird bit first off is that there's a regular Babbel app, or there's a separate Babbel French app, not sure why the difference ... but if you're doing one language, it makes sense.  It's weird tho' that when I used the main app, it kept thinking I was using Spanish.

Oh, I'm only going to talk about the app version, versus the website (which actually is a little more attractive than the app).

So, once you have a language set you start off with your courses.  And they're arranged in a typical language style: start with very VERY basic information and slowly bring it up with vocabulary via different topics eventually building into sentences.

One of the nice things that you can do with this over Duolingo is that you can download the lessons so you can work without using up your data plan when out and about.

Then you can also set up how you're going to want to interact with the lesson.  With or without your voice.  Do note that despite this option, it will still play audio for you.  I preferred how it is in Duolingo that I can say no mic or speaker (I often am in some place public, so using either might be distracting for those around me).

Okay, so let's look at the lessons.

They are a little more 'real conversational' based.

First up, in the most basic they give you a word and the translation, then a short quiz.  They give you the word and you pick the tile that corresponds.  Now, the confusing bit is that the word you're translating is way at the bottom, wasn't as intuitive that is where you should look.  Then, when you pick the right tile, the others change so where you want to go and click may change.  It takes some getting used to.

Next up you get to use one of the words in a sentence.  Or then in a sentence / response / conversation.

The tricky part here that I'm not so excited about is that they bring up their own keyboard.  In spelling the word out they scramble the order so you got to pick it out.  Not ideal.  I would have wished to type it out myself.

Where I can type it out myself it brings up its own keyboard.  And blech.

Yeah... I'm not a fan.  I really wished I could keep my GBoard (sure it can be a crutch as it'll autocomplete in French for me so I can see why they may want to limit that).  But the main hurt here is that I can't swipe letter to letter.  This makes the lesson feel like it's progressing very slowly.

After each lesson, you get a mini report card and then you get a chance to go back and correct your errors.  I'd save them... don't correct them right away ... it's too fresh to know the right answer.  Do another couple lessons and then go back.

I skipped from the basic and went down to some of the more complex.  There are lots to choose from, something like 70.  And in each of those sections, there's like 5-25 lessons/activities in each.

Skipping ahead I found the format to be very similar, just finding the individual lesson got longer sentences.  What I enjoyed was that it started taking on real conversational tone, rather than what I find with Duolingo some odd sentences.

What I liked was how they actually gave 'reasoning' behind a lot of the wordings.  Especially, when they would give you a prompt showing what the 'actual/literal translation' is and what the meaning is.  With Duolingo you just get words and no real 'reasoning' behind it.  You're left to fill in the blanks yourself.

In the end, it's pretty handy but I found limited by the interface (man I hate that keyboard) and the eventual lessons.  Maybe once I complete everything the lessons will expand, but I'm in that weird spot where I'm not a beginner and I'm not intermediate ... so I found the lessons quite easily.

But practice is practice... so all the better.

Get it on Google Play